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After a successful pilot in 2021, Wichita Startup Week is set to return this month with events aimed at helping people beyond the Kansas city realize its potential as a startup community and hub, said James Williams.
“The time is now. Whether someone is trying to start a business or just trying to figure out how to advance their career, Wichita Startup Week is about encouraging people to be entrepreneurs in their own careers — to take control of what they’re doing in life because it’s ultimately up to themselves,” said Williams, the co-founder of Techstars Wichita Startup Week and senior community affairs manager for Black Hills Energy.
In partnership with Techstars, Wichita Startup Week runs Monday, Oct. 10 through Friday Oct. 14 and is free to attend. A majority of the sessions are set to take place at Groover Labs, a coworking space in Wichita.
“People certainly don’t need to come for the full week,” said Williams, noting that the format was designed to accommodate busy professionals. “I’d suggest checking out the schedule and identifying what sessions interest you.”
Click here to check out the full schedule for Wichita Startup Week.
The program is set to feature local and national speakers, including headliner Rob DeSantis — an early angel investor of LinkedIn and co-founder of Arkestro, a predictive procurement orchestration platform.
Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate corporation based in Wichita, Kansas, is the presenting sponsor of Wichita Startup Week.
“Through Koch Disruptive Technologies, they’ve helped bring in one of the early funders of LinkedIn [Rob DeSantis], and we’re just so incredibly appreciative of them,” Williams said, noting that Koch Industries has reinforced the message that everyone can benefit from an entrepreneurial mindset.
“Rob has been successful at every level — from founder, to investor, to mentor,” said Navin Maharaj, who serves as director of Koch Disruptive Technologies. “We’re excited to help bring Rob to Wichita and know he will share knowledge and experience that crosses all Startup Week tracks.”
The week-long event is set to offer five different tracks of sessions focusing on different stages of the entrepreneurial journey.
“Those tracks range from newcomer to established. We also have a [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] track,” Williams added. “… Something that I heard is that, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ I believe as we shape the economy of the future, it should be open and available to everyone. It is a missed opportunity on my part if we’re not being open and inclusive, so the DEI track is to ensure that all this work that is being done helps all of us.”
Wichita Startup Week’s inaugural event in 2021 boasted 300 registrants and coordinated 40 free sessions. The goal for 2022 is to build on that foundation and highlight the local entrepreneurial spirit, Williams said — noting that more than 400 individuals have registered for this year’s program.
“There’s all kinds of cool success stories that came out last year in the pilot episode, and we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more of that this year in season one,” he said. “The pieces are really starting to come together in Wichita, and there’s certainly no shortage of opportunities for people to get involved in.”
Williams — who grew up in Wichita, spent time in Colorado, and later moved back to Kansas — sees synergies between the two communities, he shared.
“What I always heard about the Boulder startup scene is that, if someone failed, they all went out to get a pizza and beer because they had that community,” Williams recalled. “I feel like we’re really close to that [in Wichita]. We’re meeting regularly; we’re all running into each other, and we’re starting to see some results from that.”
Along with Techstars and Koch Industries, NXTUS — a Wichita-based nonprofit focused on serving entrepreneurs, investors, corporate partners and the community at-large — was a key player in getting Wichita Startup Weekend off the ground, Williams said.
Wichita Startup Week is a grassroots effort organized and led entirely by community volunteers who simply strive to see “Wichita Win,” Williams noted.
“We believe that we are building the economy of Wichita’s future,” Williams shared. “We want it to be open and accessible to everybody.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.